Kona 2018- Ironman World Championship Race Week
A week in Kailua-Kona, experiencing what this famous race is all about, the Ironman World Championship. The island vibe, plenty of K’s covered and a sort of holiday/ training camp with none of the pressure of actually racing.
The depart out of Brisbane did not get off to a good start with a 5hr delay due to mechanical issues before taking off, resulting in a missed connecting flight, more hours waiting in line at Honolulu Airport and another missed flight before finally getting away and arriving a lot later than scheduled.
Waking up Sunday morning looking out from the balcony saw a fun run taking place down Alii Dr which was not the only time there would be runners along this stretch with a steady stream all week, at all times of day and night, only subsiding closer to race day. A short drive, run, ride or walk along this stretch of road lead to plenty of beautiful coastline and beaches.
The town itself was always busy to varying degrees, plenty of people in bars, cafes and restaurants. The mix of Polynesian culture, American influence and a couple of thousand triathletes, supporters and media made for an interesting mix. A quick look around town would see some of the fittest people you would come across anywhere in the world. The expo provided a look at some of the newest gear and equipment including bikes, shoes, clothing, sunnies and the odd free sample along the way.,,
The first couple of rides out on the famous Queen K highway to spin the legs and a look through the barren lava fields along the long, straight and lonely road only to be broken up by a highway patrol officer ready to issue a ‘citation’ for riding 2-wide on the shoulder. After an honest discussion we were free to go pleading ignorance and assurance that it is actually legal to ride 2-wide on the roads at home!
Testing out the swim course of an afternoon, the water was crystal clear with a few turtles, fish, clear reef views and plenty of bait fish. The water was warm an super salty leading to fast swim times come race day.
A few more K’s covered on the Queen K each day offered light winds and moderate temperatures with hundreds of athletes out training and sharpening up for the big day, including some of the most famous names in the sport past and present riding and running.
Friday was the day to test the legs and ride the full bike course, leaving as the sun rose to try to beat the heat. Fortunately it was overcast all day with very light winds, almost unheard of for the Big Island. The first 60-odd Km to Kawaihae along the Queen K, was long, straight and quite monotonous, forced to ride single file of course with some long undulations closer to Waikoloa. The first major change in terrain came at the turn off the highway into Kawaihae and starting the next 30k to Hawi, a kind of false flat for the first half followed by a slight rise into town and the turn around point. Beautiful expansive views of the ocean and coastline provided some distraction from the slight gain in elevation. After turning around and coming back downhill with a slight cross-tailwind allowed for smooth riding back to Kawaihae for a quick stop and re-fuel before getting back on the Queen K for the trip back to Kona. 180k in great conditions could only give a small indication of what this course could be like on race day.
Heading down to Kailua Bay race morning there were thousands of spectators lining the shores to watch the swim start as the athletes waited to get underway. Again conditions were as good as can be, and continued most of the day which saw fast times from both male and female Pro’s and age groupers. After the famous cannon signalling the swim start, a short walk up the hill to Palani Road to watch the initial more technical section of the bike around town before jumping into the secret service-esque SUV for a quick trip around to the Waikoloa intersection to watch the leaders pass, followed by a huge pack of male age groupers. Coming back towards Kona the leaders were flying and on track for a new bike course record times by T2. Following the run by bike along Alii Dr, up Palani hill again and back onto the Queen K to the infamous Energy Lab, getting up-close views of some of the best runners in the sport, smooth and efficient, with others not so much, digging in, just hanging on and feeling the pain of the marathon!
Overall there were course records all-round but as the sun set and well past dinner time several athletes continued to make their way to the finish line completing one big day on the Big Island.
Fortunately the flight home went smoothly, no delays and a whole heap of sympathy for the guy seated beside me, straight on the plane for a 10hr flight home the day after racing an Ironman!